The TSA Failed To ID 73 Airport Workers With Links To Terrorism

On the heels of last week’s shocking news that the Transportation Security Administration has a whopping 95 percent failure rate at finding bombs and weapons, we are now learning that the TSA further failed to identify 73 airport workers with links to terrorism.


According to a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, this latest blunder comes as a result of the TSA having an incomplete version of the terrorism watch list provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

The 73 individuals whom the agency failed to identify held jobs ranging from airport vendors to working for major airlines. Those 73 people had “terrorism related category codes,” the report says with an unnerving vagueness. As you can see, what that means exactly has been heavily redacted.

“Terrorism related category codes” could, according to this 2013 document from the National Counterterrorism Center, refer to people with a relationship to a known or suspected terrorist, but unspecified involvement with their activities.


The rest of the report remains unclear on how these workers are related to terrorism except that they “represented a potential transportation security threat.” In other words, we can’t tell if the TSA employees in question had cousins in Saudi Arabia on some watchlist, or if they themselves were active ISIS sleeper cell agents with anchor babies in Texas.

The report notes that the TSA should “request and review additional watchlist data” to fix the issue, which would probably go a long way towards preventing this sort of thing from happening. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)


According to the report, the TSA doesn’t do recurrent criminal background checks of aviation workers, relying on airport operators to do so instead “with limited quality reviews.” They also rely on workers to self-report “disqualifying crimes to the airports where they worked.”

In other words, the TSA has essentially been working on the honor system this whole time when it comes to properly vetting airport employees. What could possibly go wrong, yeah?


Between bombs and weapons they can’t detect and dozens of airport workers they aren’t properly vetting, the TSA has clearly demonstrated ineptitude, malfeasance and negligence and desperately requires urgent top-down reform. This is in addition to every other scandal that has ever plagued the agency (theft, groping, ad infinitum). People no longer trust the TSA to do their jobs, and their multi-layered incompetence is the result of a budget-hungry defense system that doesn’t work in tandem and won’t even give the agency that maybe could have prevented the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil the means to actually do that.

Stay tuned as we continue to cover developments on this utterly shameful waste of time and resources.


Special thanks to Phase Zero’s Sultana Khan for assistance in researching this post!

Photo credit: Danpaluska/Wikicommons

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